15 August 2012

Estás En Tu Casa

Saludos from the West Coast blog fans! So much for keeping this updated as I travelled across the US (and back again, and back again, and back again, and then back one more time). I’d love to recount all of those great stories, and I hope to someday. But for now I am just going to pull a Tarantino and start at the end of the story. So I’ve just finished my first week of work at my new job. Feels kind of weird saying that, but alas, it’s true. Perhaps because it’s so new, or perhaps because it doesn’t really feel like a real job? Which is a good thing, because that means I like it. I got hired by a non-profit in Northern California called Puente de la Costa Sur, which serves a mainly agricultural area on the south coast of the San Francisco Penninsula, which is about an hour south of SF city and 45 minutes north of Santa Cruz. The town we are based in is called Pescadero. It's a really small town about two miles inland from Highway 1 on the Pacific Coast. Basically this is what my commute looks like every day (when its not foggy):
Puente (pronounced Pwen-tey, meaning “bridge” in Spanish) has been around in its current form for about 10 years (I think?) and serves as a resource center for the South Coast community, focusing mainly on the immigrant farmworkers and their families. For more on Puente, check out www.mypuente.org and look for us on facebook too! My role is Community Outreach Coordinator. A large part of my job is going to be getting out to the farms and ranches to talk to the workers there, make sure they know about all of the programs and services offered by Puente and also listen to their concerns/discuss any issues they may be having and figure out how we may be able to help. In general I am going try to be the eyes and ears of the organization, not only regarding the farmworkers but the ranch owners as well as other community members. In general, we want everyone to have the same access to services across the board. It’s tough because despite being only a few miles from one of the wealthiest places on earth (Silicon Valley just over the hill), in some ways this area is still like a developing country. There have been water quality issues, getting access to good health care is a challenge and the school district needs a lot of help as well. I think all of these issues have less to do with this community being primarily latino, I imagine many rural communities (both in the US and abroad) face these kinds of issues. Basically Puente tries to stick its neck out for those who can’t or don’t know how. Which is exactly what Rick Barga said about USG off-campus committee back at Ohio State. Perhaps I’ve been doing a variant on that role ever since... My first week of work was fabulous. It’s a great team full of very energetic, smart, and dedicated people. It is a mixture of both latino and white folks, I spend at least half of my day speaking spanish. Although pretty much everyone who works for us is bilingual. I haven’t spent much time with Mexican spanish so I am focusing on trying to pick up the small differences and some of the slang. There is at least one phrase, however, that carries over from the spanish I already know. Our office manager was showing me around on my first or second day and while we were in the kitchen portion of the office and she was pointing everything out, she said, “Estás en tu casa.” The literal translation of this phrase is “You are in your house,” but it’s basically the equivalent of “Make yourself at home.” Usually people say it when you arrive in their home and want you to be comfortable. But right then in that moment when I heard her say “You are in your house,” I couldn’t stop the huge grin from growing on my face. The awe and excitement of feeling good about being in a new place with a new job with all of these new people was a little overwhelming, and it was all brought out by that one little phrase. It was a good moment. The end of the day arrives and I find myself not wanting to go home. It is also a new feeling that I get to go home, since in Honduras “going home” mean walking into the next room for a few minutes before coming back to the room I worked in most of the day. No more of that. I actually get into my car and drive somewhere that is all my own...well sort of. My new living situation is pretty unique. I live in an 30’ RV on a horse ranch overlooking the ocean. While you absorb that, take a look at these pictures:
The owners are a married couple named Montrese and Anders, and they have a little daughter. She takes care of the animals (about 6 horses, 30 or so goats, and 27 chickens and ducks) and he is a contractor. They are very friendly and laid back, and I help them sometimes with work around the ranch. I like this set-up for sure. It’s often pretty foggy up here but when it clears up, the view is unbelievable. Rolling hills all around and an amazing view of the ocean. If I’m lucky I get to watch the sun set into the ocean right outside my window. A few examples:
There is a little stove where I can cook and a shower with a propane hot water heater, so most of my bases are covered. Since I am not driving it around, using the electrical appliances would run the battery down fairly quickly, so I am typing this by candlelight right now. It actually works out ok, there isn’t much space to be lit up anyway! I charge my computer and my phone at work or in my car and use them as needed. There is cell service so that’s not an issue either. It will be a great place to spend a few months while I look around for something more permanent. Every morning right outside my door there are horses running around in the mist, it’s kind of magical. Lots of wide open spaces, I have been enjoying taking walks with their dog around the land when I get a chance. She has told me there are horse trails all around too, so there should be plenty of hiking right outside my door. Here's a picture of my walking buddy, Nala:
When you let it, life can take you to some pretty unbelievable places. There is no way I could have predicted I would have landed in this situation, but when you stay open, flexible and willing to say “yes” a lot, there is no end to the interesting places you can end up.

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